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Like many physicists, Michio Kaku thinks our universe will end in a “big freeze.” However, unlike many physicists, he thinks we might be able to avoid this fate by slipping into a parallel universe.”

One of the most fascinating discoveries of our new century may be imminent if the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva produces nano-blackholes when it goes live again. According to the best current physics, such nano blackholes could not be produced with the energy levels the LHC can generate, but could only come into being if a parallel universe were providing extra gravitational input. Versions of multiverse theory suggest that there is at least one other universe very close to our own, perhaps only a millimeter away. This makes it possible that some of the effects, especially gravity, “leak through,” which could be responsible for the production of dark energy and dark matter that make up 96% of the universe.

“The multiverse is no longer a model, it is a consequence of our models,” says Aurelien Barrau, particle physicist at CERN.

While it hasn’t been proven yet, many highly respected and credible scientists are now saying there’s reason to believe that parallel dimensions could very well be more than figments of our imaginations.

“The idea of multiple universes is more than a fantastic invention—it appears naturally within several scientific theories, and deserves to be taken seriously,” stated Aurelien Barrau, a French particle physicist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

There are a variety of competing theories based on the idea of parallel universes, but the most basic idea is that if the universe is infinite, then everything that could possibly occur has happened, is happening, or will happen.

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This problem is captured in the famous thought experiment of Schrödinger’s cat. This unhappy feline is inside a sealed box containing a vial of poison that will break open when a radioactive atom decays. Being a quantum object, the atom exists in a superposition of states – so it has both decayed and not decayed at the same time. This implies that the vial must be in a superposition of states too – both broken and unbroken. And if that’s the case, then the cat must be both dead and alive as well.

To explain why we never seem to see cats that are both dead and alive, and yet can detect atoms in a superposition of states, physicists have in recent years replaced the idea of superpositions collapsing with the idea that quantum objects inevitably interact with their environment, allowing information about possible superpositions to leak away and become inaccessible to the observer. All that is left is the information about a single state.

Physicists call this process “decoherence”. If you can prevent it – by tracking all the information about all possible states – you can preserve the superposition.

In the case of something as large as a cat, that may be possible in Schrödinger’s theoretical sealed box. But in the real world, it is very difficult to achieve. So everyday cats decohere rapidly, leaving behind the single state that we observe. By contrast, small things like photons and electrons are more easily isolated from their environment, so they can be preserved in a superposition for longer: that’s how we detect these strange states.

The puzzle is how decoherence might work on the scale of the entire universe: it too must exist in a superposition of states until some of the information it contains leaks out, leaving the single state that we see, but in conventional formulations of the universe, there is nothing else for it to leak into.

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“The idea of consciousness as a “show” is ultimately derived from the bankrupt representational theory of the mind – a notion that things are present to us by virtue of being “represented” or “modelled” in the brain. You cannot get to representation, however, without prior (conscious, first-order) presentation, so the latter cannot explain the former. Neuroscientists of consciousness try to elude this obvious objection by asserting that representations are not (necessarily) conscious. In fact, all sorts of aspects of consciousness are not conscious after all.

According to Nicholas Humphrey, “before consciousness ever arose, animals were engaged in some kind of inner monitoring of their own responses to sensory stimulation”. What is “inner” about unconscious processes, material events in the material brain? And how can they amount to monitoring? These questions are not silenced by the author’s reassurance that consciousness is “the product of some kind of illusion chamber, a charade”. Nor does Humphrey tell us how he awoke from his consciousness to discover that it is an illusion.”

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There is a 50 per cent chance that time will end within the next 3.7 billion years, according to a new model of the universe. A team of physicists led by Raphael Bousso at the University of California, Berkeley rebel against this idea. They say an infinitely expanding universe is contrary to the laws of physics do not work in an infinite cosmos. For these laws to make any sense, the universe must come to an end

There Their argument is simple yet surprisingly powerful: If the universe lasts forever, then any event that can happen, will happen, no matter how unlikely. In fact, this event will happen an infinite number of times, which leads to the key obstacle: When there are an infinite number of instances of every possible observation, it becomes impossible to determine the probabilities of any of these events occurring. And when that happens, the laws of physics simply don’t apply. They just break down. “This is known as the “measure problem” of eternal inflation,” say Bousso and buddies. In short, the laws of physics abhor an eternal universe.

There The only way out of this logic trap is to introduce some kind of catastrophe x factor that brings an end to the universe. Then all the probabilities make sense again and the laws of physics regain their power. “Time is unlikely to end in our lifetime, but there is a 50% chance that time will end within the next 3.7 billion years,” Bousso says.

There The imminent end of time is unnerving but the argument depends crucially on an important assumption about the laws of physics: that we ought to be able to understand why they work, not just observe that they do work. And that’s a philosophical point of view rather than a physical argument. Buosso raises some interesting questions, says the MIT Technology Review, “but nothing to lose any sleep over. At least, not for another 3.7 billion years.”

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According to developmental psychologists, three types of knowledge determine a child’s understanding of the world: intuitive physics, intuitive psychology, and with certain reservations, intuitive biology. Part of this knowledge is characterized as core knowledge, that is, knowledge that children learn without instruction; for example, intuitive comprehension of physical, biological, and psychological entities as well as different forms of processes in which these entities engage. Core knowledge — developed by preschool age — provides the foundation for further development. It is based on what psychologists call domain specialized learning mechanisms, or modules, which evolved in response to our Paleolithic environment.

Developmental studies show that core knowledge of physical entities includes the understanding that the world is composed of material objects which have volume and an independent existence in space. Core knowledge of biological entities represents a species-typical adaptation to the problem of food selection and illness avoidance. Even if cultures lack a scientific understanding of disease transmission they still possess an intuitive understanding of it through their core knowledge. Similarly, 4-year-olds know that abnormal behaviors are not contagious, and they can discriminate between contaminated and safe substances despite a lack of visible evidence. Core knowledge of psychological entities includes the understanding that animate beings are intentional agents which have a mind. By the middle of the second year children understand that animate beings can reciprocate actions and have a capacity to move and initiate actions without external force. In addition, small children understand that the contents of mind — thoughts, beliefs, desires, and symbols — are nonmaterial and mental, and that they do not contain the properties they stand for.

17th-century British scientist Robert Boyle was many things: the father of modern chemistry, a founding member of the Royal Society, an inventor, the discoverer of the eponymous gas law, an alchemist, an experimenter on his own body fluids, and a friend to necromancers who offered him sex with demons. Now we can add “clairvoyant” to that colourful list.

Last week the Royal Society displayed for the first time a remarkable document: Boyle’s 24-point wish list for the future of science.

The list, which dates back to the 1660s, was found among his private papers and predicts the inventions of GPS navigation, flight, organ transplants, commercial agriculture and hair dye, among other things.

We were inspired and began to wonder, what could the next 400 years hold? So we asked several of today’s prominent scientists to emulate Boyle and write their own wish lists.

David Eagleman, neuroscientist and fiction writer

  • Download consciousness into a computer to live forever;
  • Travel to extra-solar planets in a reasonable amount of time;
  • Determine how to get by on zero sleep.

Steve Jones, geneticist

  • Understand the science of human emotions broadly enough to put an end to war;
  • A universal abandonment of religious belief as science triumphs over myth;
  • A healthy old age followed by an instant death;
  • The end of the need for grief;
  • The ability to grow fingers as well as we can fingernails;
  • An insight into why snails vary so much genetically from place to place.

Sean Carroll, physicist

  • Understand dark matter and dark energy, which together comprise 96 per cent of our universe;
  • Understand consciousness and intelligence, so that we could mimic it in computers.

Seth Shostak, SETI astronomer.

  • Discover not only abundant biology throughout the cosmos, but at least one instance of extraterrestrial intelligence within the next 100 years;
  • Invent regenerative therapies to cure problems related to aging such as hearing and vision loss and the degeneration of skin tone;
  • A population ten times that of Earth now living in orbiting space colonies within 200 years;
  • The ability to control local climate and alter Earth’s topography.

Jim Al-Khalili, physicist and broadcaster.

  • The convergence of nanoscience and biology enabling nano-robotic surgery and drug delivery to specific locations within cells in the body;
  • Learn whether string theory really lives up to its promise of being a “theory of everything”;.
    The realisation of a true quantum computer;
  • Crack the mystery of life itself: discover how something so unlikely could have emerged by chance on Earth three and a half billion years ago.

Lastly, here are a few of Boyle’s original suggestions: some have come true, while some we’re still holding our breath for:

  • The Prolongation of Life;
  • The Recovery of Youth, or at least some of the Marks of it, as new Teeth, new Hair colour’d as in youth;
  • The Art of Continuing long under water, and exercising functions freely there;
  • The Cure of Wounds at a Distance;
  • The Cure of Diseases at a distance or at least by Transplantation;
  • The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions;
  • The Emulating of Fish without Engines by Custome and Education only;
  • The Acceleration of the Production of things out of Seed;
  • Freedom from Necessity of much Sleeping exemplify’d by the Operations of Tea and what happens in Mad-Men.